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Eight Issues Of '08: Health Care

This story was written by Laura Kingery, Iowa State Daily

While both presidential candidates have devised plans that would radically change our nations current employer-based health care system, each man has very different ideas on how to implement reforms.

According to his campaign Web site, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., plans to expand government-provided health care and would allow the government to have more control over the coverage provided by insurance companies.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has a plan under which families would receive more money to buy their own health care in a competitive market, according to his campaign Web site.

McCains plan would do away with the tax break workers receive for employer-provided health care. Although this would amount to a large tax increase, McCain would also give employees a $5,000 tax credit, directly subtracted from their tax bill.

Samantha Clark, senior in political science and president of Iowa State University College Republicans, said this would give workers more freedom to find a plan that most suits them for the best price.

[McCains plan] would result in more people shopping for insurance on their own, with more choices available to them, she said. His plan emphasizes individual responsibility.

Eric Marsh, graduate student in mechanical engineering and president of ISU Democrats, said McCains health care plan does not address the needs of the very poor.

He plans to give a $5,000 tax credit, but some of us dont even owe $5,000 worth of taxes in the first place, Marsh said. Also, he would be the first president to tax benefits as income.

According to his campaign Web site, Obamas health care plan would create a new public program to insure low-income and self-employed workers, similar to Medicare, paid for by a payroll tax. Not everyone would be covered under the national plan, as employers can choose to continue to provide private coverage.

Obama would also require insurance companies to insure everyone and charge everyone the same premium price, regardless of health status.

Marsh said his favorite part of Obamas plan is the requirement to insure individuals with pre-existing conditions.

It is currently very difficult for some people to get coverage at a reasonable cost, he said. Not all Americans really have an equal chance. Obamas plan will provide an option for those people.

Under Obamas plan, an employer can continue to provide private insurance, but they can also decide to buy insurance for their employees through a new national plan. The plan would have many of the same coverage options offered to members of Congress.

Employers would pay for the plan by contributing a percentage of their payroll to the government. Every employee, regardless of age or health status, would pay the same percentage of tax.

Clark said requiring workers to pay a payroll tax would hurt the young, as they would be paying the same price as the old and unhealthy for coverage they dont need.

Individualizing health care plans will allow them to be the most effective, she said. I do not want to enter the job market at age 21 and have glaucoma coverage taken out of my payroll tax. If we give the government total control over making decisions that affect our lives, such as health care, then we are no longer free citizens.

Marsh disagreed, saying, If the government enters the game and provides a competitive option, this could lower health care costs for that young person as well.

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